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Mental Health

How can I Help My Family?

05/12/2010

Question:

My dad has 10 brothers and sisters and for the last several years, there have been a few quarrels over, of course, money. In the years since my grandpa died, everything has been settled lawfully and fairly, however, one of his brothers does not agree. He has always been "a little off" as the family has put it, but over the last 3 years he has become a threat to his family- his 10 siblings and nearly 30 nieces and nephews. He squandered away any money he had- my grandpa was far from wealthy- and failed to sustain a job for any length of time. At 55 years old, he has moved in with my grandma, who is 80. When the other siblings come to the house, those who have been successful and made something of their "inheritance" he has threatened to kill them, hurt them, hurt their grandchildren. He also believes that his brothers stole his house and money from him, but in reality, he went through a lengthy foreclosure in court which did not involve them at all. Recently, my uncle got right up in his nephews faces, aged 5 and 3, and gave them the finger and shouted at them to F--- off. My aunts are afraid to go there and everyone refuses to bring their kids to visit because they are terribly afraid that my uncle will really kill or hurt them. My grandma brushes it off by saying, "he`s just a little messed up, it will be fine." Things are clearly NOT fine. I have not seen my gran in 5 years, and she lives 10 minutes away. I feel strongly that he should be involuntarily committed but my dad is afraid because he is sure that when my uncle hears he must be committed, or when he is released (after the 72 hour evaluation?) that he will certainly kill or hurt as many of his family as he can. How can we help him while keeping everyone safe? Things cannot go on this way, I feel like he is a bomb who is about to go off.

Answer:

It certainly sounds like your family is having many difficult times right now.  I cannot advise you specifically, as that would be inappropriate for this venue.  However, you may want to consider some of the following options:

Some of your concerns are more legal than medical, and if you have not consulted a family law attorney, I would suggest you do so.

If you have serious concerns regarding the safety of family members, you may wish (depending on where you live) contact the equivalent of adult protective services.  They can do an in-home assessment and help determine what services might be appropriate for your relative, and make suggestions for your family.

The stress of this relative is obviously affecting your mental health, and if you have not personally met with a mental health counselor, it would be appropriate to do so.  It is difficult to make decisions like you are contemplating when you yourself are anxious and stressed.  Alone, of course, you cannot "force" another adult to seek mental health care without involving the legal system, but you can seek guidance and counseling for yourself to help you best deal with this situation.

Good luck.

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Response by:

Nancy   Elder, MD Nancy Elder, MD
Associate Professor
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati